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Out of towner, $20-30 meals (or less!)

I'm making my first return to Toronto after 32 years. I'm not sure how many places are still open from then, but it doesn't really matter since I was 2 when we left. :-) I am looking forward to getting to know this city that I've got a tenuous connection to, so help me out with one of the most important things about any city. Where should I eat in the cheap to low-middle price range?

I'm from NYC and lived in CA for much of the past six years. I eat and enjoy almost anything. What do I really like? Mexican, Korean, Spanish, French, Indian, Middle Eastern, North African. So, yeah, anything, but are there particular cuisines/restaurants that Toronto is well know for? West Indian maybe? I'm not really interested in steak places, tasting menus, sushi (although Japanese would be great), or Italian.

What are the two or three places (not including high end) you'd go if you were about to leave town for the next 32 years?

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  1. Hey, jasmurph, welcome back! Just curious - have you done any searching or research on the board yet or are we starting from scratch?

    1 Reply
    1. re: JamieK

      I have done some research, but I'm running into the usual Chowhound problems when looking at a totally new city: lots of discussion of high end places and the difficulty that comes from jumping into the middle of a conversation in which you know none of the reference points.

    2. You really shouldn't have many problems fulfilling your requirements. You can find loads of more than adequate Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Indian, Ethiopian, and Middle Eastern food for *well* under $30 per person in Toronto. I probably wouldn't hold out much hope for French in that price range, but if you stick to the others, you won't be disappointed, I don't think. Searching around Chowhound for previous posts will reveal many good locations.

      4 Replies
      1. re: vorpal

        Thanks, Vorpal. Just to clarify, I wasn't so much asking for cuisines of those kinds as indicating the spectrums of flavor I enjoy. What 2 or 3 places do you frequent in that price range?

        1. re: jasmurph

          Sure! Toronto does Chinese, Vietnamese, and Korean really well, but I can't eat it due to MSG sensitivity, so I suggest that you search around for suggestions for those styles. As for other cheap places, I really like Tokyo Grill on the west side of Yonge just north of Wellesley: good, incredibly cheap home-style Japanese cuisine. Don't go there expecting sushi, but instead good ramen, curries, etc. Ethiopian House (the street it's on eludes me) is great for Ethiopian food. For Indian, I love the restaurants on Baldwin street (Jodhpore and Gateways of India), although they may push the bounds of your budget depending on your appetite.

          1. re: vorpal

            Ethiopian house is on Irwin, which is a couple of streets north of Wellesley.
            I'm also a fan of Tokyo Grill, tasty ramen.

          2. re: jasmurph

            Oh! I also highly recommend Rashnaa on Wellesley just east of Parliament for amazing and very cheap Sri Lankan food!

        2. There are a whole slew of reasonably priced Ethiopian restaurants along the Danforth ranging from Jones over to Woodbine or so. One in particular gets good mentions on this board, here's a review of Dukem (a search will bring up further references) -

          Also, for East Arican/Indian, Simba Grill on Donlands also gets favourable reviews, reasonably priced, here's a review -

          Across the street from Simba on Donlands is an unpretentious place called the Ritz Diner that serves good Filipino, very reasonably priced. Here's a review from the Toronto Star -

          310 Donlands Ave, Toronto, ON M4J3R9, CA

          950 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4J 1L9, CA

          Simba Grill
          375 Donlands Ave, Toronto, ON M4J3S2, CA

          1. My three places before leaving for three decades would be:
            Mother's Dumplings
            Little India
            Hair of the Dog

            Little India
            255 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M5V1Z4, CA

            Hair Of The Dog
            425 Church St, Toronto, ON M4Y2C3, CA

            Mother's Dumplings
            421 Spadina Avenue, Toronto, ON , CA

            1. Welcome back! The Golden Thai on Church (corner Richmond) and The Pomegranate Persian resto on College, near Bathurst. Both very reasonable priced. Great atmosphere included!!!

              1. Definitely second Ethiopia House and Mother's Dumplings (the pork and dill dumplings are great).

                - Jumbo Empanadas in Kensington market for super-cheap quickie lunch (and delicious empanadas).
                - Jules is quite charmant for inexpensive French (Richmond and Spadina).
                - I like Pho Hung for Vietnamese noodle soup (and tasty fruit shakes). Ginger is also very inexpensive and satisfying Viet

                1. Thanks, Toronto. Keep it coming!

                  1. I'm back from Toronto and wanted to give a quick thank you to all who helped me find places to eat. Here's a brief report:

                    Tokyo Grill was just the kind of place we were hoping for. Inexpensive and delicious. I loved the curry udon.

                    Jumbo Emapanadas was pretty good. I loved the beef filling, but honestly wish they were less jumbo, becasue there was way too much pastry/pie stuff and it tasted like bad pizza dough.

                    We went to Jamie Kennedy's restaurant in the Gardiner museum for lunch--it was definitely the best meal of the short trip. Everything was great quality ingredients cooked really well. It reminded me a bit of Blue Hill in Manhattan. The only thing that struck me as, well, odd was the Canadian-only winelist. I'm all for local food, as long as it's good. Mind you, I don't think much of most NY and CA wines either.

                    93 Harbord was quite good. We both had lamb dishes, made with nice gamy cuts, oozing with flavor. My only complaint was the wine list--Australian plonk by the glass.

                    Bulldog Coffee was great. I love that serious coffee joints are getting easier to find all over North America, and not just the Pacific NW.

                    Breakfast was not so successful. We went to My Market Bakery one morning. It was just ok. Much worse, maybe the worst breakfast I've ever had, was at Over Easy, on Bloor, across form the ROM. We went in becasue it was near our hotel. To start with, most of the dishes were $9.95, which is an absurd price for the trash they serve. My "pancakes" were about 2.5 inches thick and tasted exactly like frozen Eggo pancakes. I'm not sure if you have Eggo products in Canada, but if you don't, count yourselfl lucky. If you're curious, go to Over Easy and try a poancake--only the Eggo products, whcih are sold frozen in a box *are* better than the Over Easy ones. They're horrible. They arrived at room temperature, which is more than I can say for the bacon, which came cold. I have never been given cold bacon for breakfast in my entire life. I can't imagine anyone who has ever cooked anything in his life serving cold bacon for breakfast. My wife's granola was made with untoasted (for all purposes raw) oats with no sugar or honey added to itt, so it tasted a lot like cardboard and ddin't really qualify as granola. Her fruit salad was 90% melon, falovorless melon at that. It was truly atrocious.

                    That terrible breakfast aside, it was quite succesful. Now if only the US would do something about its dollar, so it wouldn't be so expensive to come here.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: jasmurph

                      So glad to hear that you liked Tokyo Grill and that your culinary adventures were largely successful! Thanks for reporting back and letting us know!